What does Handicap Mean in Betting?


The revolution of sports betting has affected every aspect of sporting activities today, but it doesn’t end there, does it?

Bookmakers and online gaming companies have further revolutionized gambling itself by increasing the diversity of things that can be done, creating multiple streams of betting types, one of which is handicap betting. In the realm of sports betting, the term “handicap” holds significant importance.

It’s a concept that can be confusing for beginners but is crucial for understanding and effectively placing bets in various sports. This article aims to address the intricacies of handicap betting, explaining its meaning, types, strategies, and how it influences the betting landscape.

Handicap Betting Explained

Handicap betting is a popular form of wagering in sports betting that aims to level the playing field between teams or competitors of varying strengths. It is particularly prevalent in sports like football, basketball, and rugby, where one team is heavily favored over the other.

This form of betting involves giving a virtual disadvantage or advantage to one of the teams or players before the game begins. This is done by applying a handicap, which can be in the form of goals, points, or other scoring units, depending on the sport.

In handicap league betting, bettors can explore various options, including handicap odds, draw handicap bet and no draw Handicap bet, to strategically wager on matches. In addition to exploring handicap odds and draw handicap bets, another key aspect to consider in handicap wagering is the handicap score, which plays a crucial role in leveling the playing field between teams of varying strengths.


How Does Handicap Betting Work?

Let’s break down how handicap betting works using a football match as an example. Suppose Manchester United is playing against a weaker team like Burnley. In this scenario, the odds of Manchester City winning outright would be very low due to their superior skills and form.

To make the bet more enticing and balanced, a handicap is applied to Manchester United, meaning they start the game with a virtual disadvantage. On the other hand, Aston Villa receives a virtual advantage. This could be expressed as Manchester United (-1) and Aston Villa (+1).

If you place a handicap bet on Manchester United (-1), they would need to win by at least two goals for your bet to be successful. Conversely, if you bet on Aston Villa (+1), they can either win the match outright or lose by a single goal, and your bet will still win.

Overall, handicap wagering adds an exciting dimension to sports betting by offering better odds and creating a more competitive environment, especially in matchups where one team is significantly stronger than the other. It allows sports bettors to explore various strategies and potentially win their bets even if the favored team doesn’t win the game outright.

What Are Types of Handicap Betting?

Handicap wagering comes in various types, each designed to cater to different preferences and scenarios in sports betting. Understanding these types can help bettors make informed decisions and strategize effectively. Here are some of the different types of handicap wagering options available

European Handicap Betting

In European handicap wagering, whole numbers are used to create a level playing field between teams or players of unequal strengths. This type of handicap eliminates the possibility of a draw by offering odds with a clear favorite and underdog.

For example, if Team A has a European handicap of -1 and Team B has a European handicap of +1, Team A needs to win by at least two goals for the bet to succeed.

Asian Handicap Betting

An Asian handicap bet is more intricate and includes half goals to ensure a definitive outcome without the possibility of a draw. It is widely popular in football betting. Asian handicap bets can be divided into several sub-types:

Single Handicap: In this type, one team is given a handicap while the other team has no handicap. For instance, if Team A has an Asian handicap of -1.5 goals, they need to win by at least two goals for the bet to win. If they win by just one goal, the bet is considered a push, and the stake is refunded.

Double Handicap: Here, both teams are given handicaps. For example, Team A might have an Asian handicap of -1 and Team B a handicap of +2.5 goals. This creates more diverse betting options and odds.

No Draw Handicap: As the name suggests, this type of handicap eliminates the possibility of a draw. It typically involves using quarter-goal handicaps, such as -0.25, -0.75, +0.25, +0.75, etc. If the match ends in a draw after applying the handicap, the bet is divided into two halves, with half the stake going towards the handicap that won and the other half refunded.

Draw Handicap Betting

Draw handicap wagering is a variation where the handicap is applied to the possibility of a draw rather than to individual teams. It offers odds on whether the match will end in a draw after the handicap is applied. This type of betting is common in sports like soccer and rugby.

Positive and Negative Handicap Betting

Handicap wagering can also be categorized into positive and negative handicaps. A positive handicap is given to the underdog, while a negative handicap is given to the favorite. For example, if Team A has a +2 handicap and Team B has a -2 handicap, Team A is the underdog and Team B is favorite with A having a positive and B having a negative handicap.

Virtual Handicap Betting

Virtual handicap wagering is prevalent in online betting platforms where virtual matches are simulated. It mimics real-life handicap betting but applies to virtual sporting events.

Half Point Handicap

In Half Point Handicap betting, fractional handicaps like -0.5, +0.5, -1.5, +1.5, etc., are used to provide more betting choices. This makes it less likely for a tie to occur and makes the outcomes easier to understand.

Goal Handicap

Goal handicap betting is specific to sports like ice hockey, where goals are the primary scoring units. The handicap is given in terms of goals, such as -1 goal, +2 goals, etc., to adjust the odds based on the perceived strength of the teams.

Final Score Handicap

This type of handicap betting involves predicting the final score of a match after applying the handicap. It adds an extra layer of challenge and higher odds for successful predictions.

Handicap Betting by Sport

In today’s world, tons of sporting activities can be gambled on. Each betting option is tailored to fit different sports.

Handicap betting is a versatile wagering option that finds applications across a wide range of popular sports, adding excitement and strategic depth to betting experiences. Here’s a close look at how handicap betting is utilized in some of the most popular sports.

Football (Soccer)

Handicap betting in football is incredibly popular and is often used to balance out matches where one team is heavily favored over the other. Bettors can place handicap bets on outcomes like the final score, half-time scores, or specific events within the match.

Common handicap options in football include Asian handicaps, where split goals are used to eliminate draws, and European handicaps, which involve whole numbers and can result in draws.


In basketball, handicap betting is prevalent, especially in leagues like the NBA. Since basketball games can have high-scoring differentials, handicaps are used to even out matchups.

For example, if Team A is expected to win by a large margin, they may have a negative handicap, while the underdog Team B would have a positive handicap. This allows bettors to wager on whether the favorite will win by more than the handicap or if the underdog will perform better than expected.


Handicap betting is common in rugby matches, particularly in tournaments like the Six Nations or Rugby World Cup.

Similar to football and basketball, handicaps are used to adjust the odds when there’s a significant difference in team strengths. Bettors can place handicap bets on aspects like the final score, total points scored, or specific player performances.


While tennis doesn’t traditionally use handicap betting as extensively as team sports, it can still be applied in certain scenarios, such as player matchups or tournament outcomes.

Handicap betting in tennis might involve giving a set or game advantage to the underdog player to balance the odds.


Handicap betting in golf is more about adjusting the odds for tournament outcomes rather than individual matches.

For example, in a golf tournament, a strong player might have a negative handicap, indicating their odds of winning are lower, while an up-and-coming player could have a positive handicap, offering better odds for bettors who believe in their potential to perform well.


In cricket, handicap betting can be applied to various aspects of the game, such as predicting the number of runs scored by a team, the margin of victory, or the performance of individual players.

Handicaps can be based on factors like the pitch conditions, team form, and player injuries.

Ice Hockey

Handicap betting in ice hockey revolves around goals, where handicaps are given in terms of goals scored or conceded.

This can include predicting the winning margin, total goals in a match, or specific player goal tallies. Handicap bets in ice hockey add an extra layer of excitement to the fast-paced sport.

The Role of Handicap Betting in Sports Betting Markets

The sports betting market is experiencing rapid growth online and has the potential for even more expansion. Several factors contribute to this growth, including handicap betting.

Handicap betting plays a vital role in influencing how betting markets operate, providing a wide range of options and opportunities for bettors to participate in their favorite sports. Here’s a closer look at the importance of handicap betting in sports betting markets.

Enhanced Engagement

Handicap betting makes sports more exciting for fans. It lets bettors dive into matchups, consider advantages or disadvantages, and strategize for more engaging and meaningful games.

Balancing Odds

One of the primary roles of handicap betting is to balance the odds in uneven matchups. By applying handicaps to teams or players, sportsbooks ensure that both sides of the bet have a fair chance of winning, regardless of the perceived strength difference.

This balance contributes to a more competitive and appealing betting environment.

Expanded Betting Options

Handicap betting expands the range of betting options available to bettors. Instead of solely wagering on the outright winner of a match, bettors can explore various handicap scenarios, such as predicting the winning margin, total goals or points scored, halftime scores, and individual player performances.

This variety enhances the overall betting experience and caters to different betting preferences.

Risk Management

Handicap betting also serves as a risk management tool for both bettors and sportsbooks. For bettors, handicaps offer opportunities to mitigate risks by adjusting the odds based on their analysis of the match dynamics.

On the other hand, sportsbooks use handicaps to manage their exposure to large payouts in heavily favored matchups, ensuring a more balanced book.

Strategic Betting

Handicap betting encourages strategic thinking among bettors. It requires analyzing factors such as team form, player injuries, historical performances, and match conditions to make informed betting decisions.

This strategic approach adds depth to betting and appeals to bettors who enjoy applying their knowledge and insights to gain an edge.

Market Efficiency

Handicap betting contributes to market efficiency by reflecting the true probabilities of outcomes. As bettors engage in handicap betting, the market adjusts to accommodate their actions, leading to more accurate odds and a fair representation of each team or player’s chances of success.


Challenges and Risks of Handicap Betting

Like any form of betting, handicap wagering comes with its own set of challenges and risks. Understanding these risks is essential for responsible and sustainable betting practices.

While handicap wagering adds excitement and strategic depth to sports wagering, it also comes with its own set of challenges and risks that bettors should be aware of, some of them include:


Handicap wagering can be more complex than traditional betting formats, especially for newcomers. Understanding different types of handicaps, such as Asian handicaps and European handicaps, along with variations like half goals and quarter goals, requires a grasp of betting terminology and strategies.

Higher Variance

Handicap wagering often involves higher variance compared to simple win/lose bets. Since handicaps adjust the odds, the outcomes can be more unpredictable, leading to both larger wins and losses. This variance requires bettors to manage their bankroll effectively and be prepared for swings in their betting results.

Misjudging Handicaps

One of the risks in handicap wagering is misjudging the handicap applied to a match. Bettors may underestimate or overestimate the impact of a handicap on the outcome, leading to incorrect bet selections. Thorough analysis of team strengths, recent performances, and other relevant factors is essential to making informed handicap bets.

Draw Scenarios

In some handicap wagering types, such as Asian handicaps, draw scenarios can result in half-win or half-loss outcomes, known as pushes. This can be confusing for bettors who may not fully understand how pushes affect their bets and potential payouts.

Reduced Odds

Handicap wagering on heavily favored teams or players may result in reduced odds, as the handicap shifts the betting lines to create a more balanced market. While this can mitigate risks, it also means potential winnings may be lower compared to straightforward win/lose bets.

Market Fluctuations

Handicap wagering markets can experience fluctuations based on betting trends, team news, and other external factors. Sudden shifts in handicaps or odds can catch bettors off guard, requiring quick decision-making and adaptation.


Success in handicap wagering can sometimes lead to overconfidence, where bettors believe they can consistently beat the handicaps and make profitable bets. However, it’s essential to remain cautious and avoid taking excessive risks based on past successes.

To navigate these challenges and risks effectively, bettors should focus on thorough research, risk management strategies, and maintaining a disciplined approach to betting.

Understanding handicap wagering details and staying updated on market trends can reduce risks and improve the betting experience. This knowledge can make it easier to profit from gambling without facing financial strain.

How To find a Good Handicap Betting Site

There are numerous betting sites offering handicap wagering options today. Almost every standard online betting site includes the handicap bet option. Therefore, finding the best handicap site can be quite challenging.

However, finding the best handicap betting sites is crucial for a rewarding and enjoyable sports betting experience. Here are some key factors to consider when choosing handicap betting sites:

Reputation and Trustworthiness

Look for betting sites with a solid reputation and a history of trustworthiness. Sites that are licensed and regulated by reputable gaming authorities offer a higher level of security and fairness to bettors.

Variety of Handicap Options

Opt for betting sites that offer a wide variety of handicap options across different sports. This includes Asian handicaps, European handicaps, split goals, quarter goals, and more. Having diverse handicap choices allows bettors to explore various betting strategies and preferences.

Competitive Odds

The best betting sites provide competitive odds that offer value to bettors. Compare the odds offered by different sites to ensure you’re getting the best possible returns on your bets.

User-Friendly Interface

A user-friendly interface is crucial for an optimal betting experience. Choose betting sites that are easy to navigate, have clear bet placement options, and offer intuitive features for managing bets and tracking results.

Live Betting and Streaming

Consider betting sites that offer live betting options and streaming services for sports events. This allows bettors to place bets in real-time and follow the action as it unfolds, enhancing the excitement and engagement of handicap betting.

Bonuses and Promotions

Look for betting sites that offer attractive bonuses and promotions to new and existing customers. These can include welcome bonuses, free bets, cashback offers, and loyalty rewards. Take advantage of these incentives to maximize your betting opportunities.

Mobile Compatibility

Choose betting sites that are compatible with mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Mobile-friendly sites or dedicated mobile apps enable bettors to place bets on the go, providing flexibility and convenience.

Customer Support

Reliable customer support is essential when betting online. The best handicap betting sites offer responsive customer support channels, such as live chat, email, and phone support, to assist bettors with any queries or issues.


How to place a Handicap bet

To place a handicap bet, follow these steps:

Choose a Betting Site: Select a reputable betting site that offers handicap betting options.

Select the Match: Navigate to the sports section and choose the match you want to bet on.

Choose Handicap Option: Look for the handicap betting options available for the match. Select the type of handicap (e.g., Asian handicap).

Pick Your Bet: Decide which team or player you want to bet on and choose the appropriate handicap option (+ or -).

Enter Stake: Enter the amount you wish to wager on the bet.

Confirm Bet: Review your selections and confirm the bet to place it.

Monitor the Match: Keep track of the match and check the outcome based on the handicap applied to determine if your bet wins or loses.

Tips and Strategies for Handicap Betting

When engaging in handicap wagering, implementing effective tips and strategies can enhance your chances of success:

Research Teams/Players: Conduct thorough research on the teams or players involved, including recent performances, injuries, and head-to-head matchups. This information helps in making informed handicap bet selections.

Understand Handicap Types: Familiarize yourself with different handicap types such as Asian handicap, European handicap, and quarter goals. Understand how each type works and choose the most suitable one based on the match dynamics.

Analyze Market Trends: Monitor betting markets for trends and fluctuations related to your handicap wagering option. Pay attention to changes in odds and handicaps, as they can provide insights into betting patterns and potential value opportunities.

Consider Home/Away Advantage: Take into account the home or away advantage of teams or players when placing handicap bets. Home teams may have an edge in certain sports, influencing the handicap selection.

Manage Bankroll: Practice responsible bankroll management by only wagering an amount you can afford to lose. Avoid chasing losses or placing overly risky bets that could deplete your bankroll quickly.

Utilize Live Betting: Take advantage of live betting options for handicap bets, especially in dynamic sports like football and basketball. Live betting allows you to adjust your bets based on in-game developments and momentum shifts.

Diversify Bets: Spread your handicap bets across different matches and sports to minimize risk and maximize potential returns. Avoid putting all your stakes on one outcome.

Track Performance: Keep track of your betting performance over time. Analyze your wins, losses, and overall profitability to identify strengths and areas for improvement in your betting strategy.


What is the difference between Asian handicap and European handicap betting?

The main difference lies in how draws are handled. In Asian handicap betting, draws are eliminated as an option by using split goals, quarter goals, or whole numbers. This means there must be a clear winner, making it a two-outcome bet. On the other hand, European handicap bets allow for the possibility of a draw, resulting in three possible outcomes (win, lose, draw).

How does handicap betting work in football?

In football, handicap betting involves giving a virtual advantage or disadvantage to teams based on their perceived strengths. For example, if Team A is heavily favored over Team B, a handicap may be applied to Team A (-1 goal) and a corresponding advantage to Team B (+1 goal). Bettors can then wager on whether Team A will win by more than one goal or if Team B will perform better than expected.

What are the benefits of handicap betting compared to traditional win/lose bets?

Handicap betting offers several benefits, including:

Enhanced odds and potential for higher payouts, especially in uneven matchups.

Increased variety of betting options, allowing for strategic and nuanced wagering.

The ability to bet on both sides of a match, making it suitable for different betting preferences.

A more engaging and competitive betting experience, particularly in sports with clear favorites and underdogs.


Handicap betting adds an exciting and strategic dimension to sports wagering, allowing bettors to explore diverse betting options, balance odds in uneven matchups, and engage in nuanced strategies.

Whether it’s Asian handicaps, European handicaps, or other variations, understanding how handicap betting works opens up a world of opportunities for sports enthusiasts. By considering factors such as team strengths, match dynamics, and market trends, bettors can make informed decisions and maximize their chances of success in handicap betting.

Also, in order to have a flawless betting experience, it is important to approach gambling responsibly. With responsible betting practices and a solid grasp of handicap betting principles, sports betting enthusiasts can enjoy a thrilling and rewarding betting experience across a wide range of sports and competitions.

About the Author
David Abayomi Aje is a freelance writer and digital marketer. David has been a content writer and a digital marketer for 16 years. He is published in different sports blog websites such as soccerfanbase.com/blog, gunnerstown.com. When he is not writing, David is watching his favourite sports teams - Arsenal football club in England, the Los Angeles Lakers, Barcelona e.t.c. You can connect with David on Twitter via @thebottomcorna